The 2022-23 PGA Tour season may be trending towards becoming the year of redemption after Russell Henley successfully captured his fourth career victory at the 2022 World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Following in the footsteps of Keegan Bradley and Mackenzie Hughes, Henley's triumph at El Camaleon Golf Course broke a five-year drought from the winner's circle and marked his first trophy raise since the 2017 Houston Open.
Finishing the week at 23 under, Henley not only shattered his winless streak but also plenty of scoring records along the way. Both the 36-hole and 54-hole records fell at Mayakoba earlier in the week, and ultimately gave way for Henley to possess the tournament scoring record as well -- matching Viktor Hovland's 23-under total in 2021.
For Henley, this week in Mexico, where his putting finally matched his exquisite iron play and accurate driving, was more than overdue. Ranking second, sixth and third in strokes gained approach the last three seasons on the PGA Tour, Henley has experienced his fair share of gut-wrenching and heartbreaking moments in the final stages of tournaments.
Earlier this year, Henley went into the weekend at the 2022 Sony Open in full control of his game. Playing the final 36 holes in 8 under, the Georgia alum was tracked down by Hideki Matsuyama through a herculean effort that featured consecutive rounds of 7-under 63.
Falling in a playoff at Waialae Country Club just months earlier, Henley missed out on extra holes entirely at the 2021 Wyndham Championship. Commanding a three-stroke lead entering the final round, the 33-year-old carded four back-nine bogeys including one on his 72nd hole which resulted from a three putt from 25 feet away.
"I just tried to learn from my past and my screw ups," said Henley. "That's kind of what I took from the last two events that I played from the start of this season and just tried to learn what I am doing wrong and how can I get better with it. All those events that I didn't close out, they hurt. You don't know if you'll ever get to win another one. It's so hard out here. To come down 18 with a four-shot lead, it was just really cool. It's still just ... I don't even know what to say."
These moments of pain only make this moment of joy at Mayakoba that much deeper and that much more meaningful as Henley came into the event having failed to convert his last five 54-hole leads into victories.
The consistency in which Henley has been able to put himself in this position should be applauded, yet consistency is hardly rewarded in the game of golf without the accompaniment of hardware, especially on the PGA Tour. With such a strong tee-to-green, presence -- similar to Bradley almost -- it does make the mind wander and imagine what this win will do for Henley's confidence and if this consistency of his can translate into even more titles.
From 2013-18, Henley was one of the best putters on the PGA Tour before completely falling off with the putter in hand. While Henley has experienced his troubles the last handful of seasons with the flat stick, his victory at the 2022 World Wide Technology Championship illustrates exactly what he is capable of when that club cooperates.
A non-major champion -- although a 54-hole leader at the 2021 U.S. Open -- and a non-participant in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups for the United States, conventional wisdom and the sheer depth of the PGA Tour suggests that will not change in 2023. But don't be surprised if come major championship season or come the time for Zach Johnson to make his captain's selections for Rome if there isn't a moment when Henley's name isn't at least brought up in conversation. Grade: A+
Here are the grades for the rest of the leaderboard at the 2022 World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.
T3. Scottie Scheffler (-18): After a quiet fall, Scheffler lit up the course at Mayakoba on Sunday with a 9-under 62 and the round of the week at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. It was what we grew accustomed to from him early in the year, and though he didn't win, his finale made it easy to envision him bridging 2022 to 2023. Grade: A-
"I feel good, game feels good," he said. "I hit it nicely this week outside of the few, you know, bad breaks. And a few things go my way, a few more putts go in, I could have been right in the tournament, but obviously Russell's playing great golf right now and hopefully he just continues to cruise."
T15. Collin Morikawa (-15): Morikawa had his best finish of the fall this week at Mayakoba, and it coincided with his work with a new putting coach. More interestingly, he popped back at analyst Trevor Immelman after Immelman suggested that Morikawa has been struggling a bit because of how difficult it is to live up to the ridiculously high standard he set for himself early in his career by winning so often (including two of his first eight majors). Morikawa's response was ... kind of odd.
"Wow, that's hard to hear from him," Morikawa told Golf Channel. "I couldn't care less what he says there because I don't think that's my bar. I think I've got so much more to improve. I've been near last on putting. I don't think I've even finished close to being average on putting. If I can just get my putting to be average, I think there's so much more to improve. I don't know where that came from, but that kind of stings there. I don't like to hear that.
"I don't know if it that was a compliment, I'll be honest. If he did, maybe it came off wrong from what I heard. For me, I've never seen a ceiling. I just want to keep improving. Obviously we took a couple steps back this year. It's just trying to get better every day and trying to improve on little things. I expect myself to play well. I set really high goals for myself. It just sucks when they don't come through."
This has to be a misunderstanding here because Immelman in no way was trying to offend Morikawa. He was simply saying that high bars early in one's career are difficult to return to, which is true. Morikawa's response was not commensurate with what Immelman's posture toward him. Grade: B+
T10. VIktor Hovland (-16): It wasn't the three-peat Hovland envisioned, but Hovland has now shot scores of 67-69-63-65-67-65-62-67-65-69-66-68 over the last three years at Mayakoba and lost to nine of 393 competitors in that timespan. That is, of course, preposterous. Grade: B-